If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you are in the right place for a good old snoop.
This Friday, Maria White of Aspirations Coaching gives us her insight into the wonderful world of freelancing and shares her thoughts on how to make it as a newly self-employed business owner. Please do read on and get to know this weeks’ Freelancer Friday interviewee, she’s truly fascinating!
So, first of all Maria, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you.
Well, I have worked most of my 30 year career in education, including being the Head of a Residential special school. When I turned the big 5-0 in 2013 I decided it was time for a career change and so I started planning to become a Life Coach. I am married to my wonderful husband, Brian. We enjoy travelling and adventure holidays and often go off cycling or walking. Last Easter we cycled the southern oasis in Morocco.
Something you wouldn’t know about me? Well, I am a bit of a ballroom dancer (long before “strickly”) and I’ve held a python around my neck!!!
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
My business is only a year old – I got started in my previous life. So many people came to me to talk about issues in their lives and I worked with so many amazing people who faced such challenging times. I found myself just listening to people’s life stories, asking them questions that would help them resolve their own issues or help them to feel comfortable about themselves. I found that I had an aptitude for listening and supporting. I decided to take it further and began my qualification in Transformational life coaching. The more I studied and practised, the more I wanted to continue.
Are you freelancing full time or part time? Do you have a second or even third means of income to keep you moving forward?
Initially I was freelancing and working part time, now I am freelancing full time. When I made my career change I was able to plan financially for some lean years with little income.
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
I definitely spent time planning, training and worrying! I think self-sabotage is a pitfall for the self-employed. Learning to take risks, make mistakes, stay motivated and keep going are what I believe will build success in the end. It is very easy to procrastinate when you are not being held accountable to anyone but yourself. It is very easy to worry, to be concerned about the mistakes you make. However, I am a supremely optimistic person and I believe in hard work and determination. If you want it to happen, make it happen.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
I don’t really have a typical working day. I get up quite early and usually swim, run or yoga for about an hour. I might see a client in the morning or I may be working on an article, skyping a client or writing up notes. Planning for the training work I do takes time and I may arrange to see a colleague I work with for planning and development work. Sometimes I visit Silks Hair and Beauty Salon in Bedford where I work from or run workshops occasionally.
If I am running a day’s training I am up early to ensure I am at the venue to prepare and then greet my participants.
I also spend some time each day reading professional material and developing my own knowledge and understanding.
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
The biggest challenge for any freelancer is getting yourself known by the people who are your clients. It doesn’t matter how good your are at your job or service, if your potential clients don’t know you are there you will be wasting your time. Finding the best way to reach the people who need your service is always a challenge. I am still learning the best way to use social media to enhance my profile and I know I need to keep working on this. (Thanks Jo for the support through Stir Up Media!)
And what’s the best element of being your own boss?
The best thing about being my own boss is the freedom I have to use my time in the way I choose. Having come from a career where I was working 50 or 60 hours a week and sometimes more I now relish working less hours in a way that suits me. I am now able to devote time to other things such as my family and my home. I remember people’s birthdays and my nieces and nephews get present on time that I have chosen rather than something late that my secretary ordered.
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
I am very disciplined and see the hours during the day as most profitable for my work. I commit a certain amount of time every day to work even if I am not working directly with clients. I still prefer not to work weekends. I have my own motto of ‘Outside and out of breath everyday’. Exercise and wellbeing are too important in my work to be overlooked and I function better when I have exercised. Evenings are for my family and hobbies, reading, sewing, cooking and decent beer. I love music and regularly go to live music events or theatre.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
I work from home. I meet clients at their homes or mine or at a neutral place such as a coffee shop. I meet colleagues in their work places for planning. I hire local venues for my training courses.
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
Yes, definitely. Along with exercise, having a break and eating regularly are really important. I try not to use the computer or other device for more than two hours at a time.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
Skype is so useful for clients who are at a distance and also for working mum’s who can talk when the children are asleep. Other than that the internet and my mobile phone are what I use most. I am currently loving my new Surface computer.
Is there anything you really don’t enjoy as a freelancer? Perhaps something would persuade you to go back to a “regular” job?…
So much about regular work is just that …regular. Regular hours, regular pay, routines, certainty. If that is what you want in life then self-employment is not for you. I do miss the regular income but very little else. What I have gained in the quality of my life and the freedom and control I have is far more satisfying.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
Being new to this I have only just started networking but I am really glad to have the opportunity to meet other freelancers. I have started to attend two or three regular network groups to meet other in similar situations. I only attend one networking event a week as they can easily eat into your time, in the most enjoyable way. You need to make networking work for you. You need to be clear about why you are going and what you wish to gain from it. For me it has given me an opportunity to meet like-minded people and to learn about business in my local area.
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Plan and prepare financially for some lean years. Don’t expect things to happen straight away. Most new businesses take three to five years to become successful. Don’t knock yourself. Find business and emotional support when you need it. Enjoy every moment, even the bad ones, they are all learning opportunities.
Anything else you would like to add or share?
Thanks to Jo for the opportunity to be included in her Freelancer Friday blog series. Thank you also to all those wonderful Cambridgeshire business people who have been so supportive.
Anyone wanting to know more about life coaching and what I do, please check out my website.
How can we find you online (and off?):
Thanks so much Maria for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!
If you would like to read the other Freelancer Friday interviews in this series, please have a nosey here.
Are you ready to create a blog or social media account for your personal or professional life?
Do you perhaps feel like you need a guardian angel to help you through it?
Look no further – here at StirUpMedia.com I am now offering affordable coaching & support to do just that (virtually and in person, so it doesn’t matter where you are located), simply get in touch for more info.